Translating Ushahidi into French

We launched the alpha version of Ushahidi a week before we began deploying the platform into the DR Congo. We knew there were things that needed to be fixed, processes that had to be refined, etc. What we hadn’t yet considered was the fact that few people read English in the Eastern Congo. We needed a French version ASAP.

Users read Ushahidi in their own language

The most important part of the site to have translated first is the front-end (the part that everyone sees), the admin area is also important, but not nearly as urgent. We couldn’t just go in there and change the words out, what we needed was a programmatic way to do this so that any other future translations in any other language could be done fairly simply (and much faster).

The first step was to pull all the English text content from the site and put it in a flat file document to be translated into French. Kaushal and Ory worked particularly hard finding people to do that translation and then to create a process, using Google spreadsheet docs, so that the next time we have to do it the transition will go a lot smoother. Once those text fields were all finalized we simply funneled that back into the platform and made an option to access it by clicking on a French flag in the site’s header.

For the administrators

It’s important that the administrators are able to translate incoming English reports into French (or other languages in the future). When on the “reports” page of the administration side, you’ll see this new button:

Click here to translate

Once clicked, that button takes you to the following page where you can select the language you would like to translate the report into, and begin translating each section:

Translation page in Ushahidi


We’re about 80% of the way done. One area that has proved to be particularly challenging is categories. Those are set by the administrator. This means it’s dynamic, not static like the rest of the content on the front-end. We’re working on a way to for administrators to add their categories in multiple languages.

Some languages take more characters (or words) to say something than others. We’re trying to figure out how to make sure that type of change doesn’t break our formatting completely.

Lastly, we’re trying to decide where and when the right time is to use automated computer translation of content. Requiring administrators to translate and retype reports, news headlines and local help organizations is neither efficient or time-saving. We’re interested in figuring out a way to programmatically help administrators manage this.

Thoughts on ways we can do this better?

Ushahidi featured in Forbes Magazine (and other stuff)

Over the last few months, I have treated the task of growing and building Ushahidi very much like how one would grow and build a business, or one would run a start-up (or rather how I imagine one would do it since I’ve had no experience doing either).  It has been a challenge, mostly because we have not had the luxury of pre-planning, and because we have operated with limited resources and been a largely virtual organization.   From the beginning, we’ve sort of just taken a rapid proto-type and growth approach, often figuring out things as we go along and relying on the fact that we really believe in what we are trying to build as our compass.

In addition, while there is a lot more structure to us then when we first started, and while we are now planning, and looking at metrics, and thinking more strategically than ever…it has been important for me to make sure that we retain that element of quick-out-of-the-box thinking that has made Ushahidi possible…back when it was just an idea that we built on nothing more than our passion for Kenya (OK, it was not that long ago but it seems like eons sometimes given how much progress we’ve made :-)) .

Balancing the two is easier said than done, especially when trying to navigate the donor funding world, which sometimes (I think) struggles to figure out how to support us and our non-traditional approach.    Nevertheless, we soldier on, driven by the great support we’ve gotten from the community that has evolved around Ushahidi (thank you!) and from the recognition we have received in the media.

For us to be featured in Forbes magazine is a big deal for many reasons – it speaks to our entrepreneurial approach to social problems, it speaks to the incredible talent we have in Africa that often doesn’t receive the recognition it deserves in the international media, and it says to me that we are on to something.

So today, I will revel in the great coverage we are getting…and save my worries about how we’ll make payroll next year for tomorrow.

Nominate a Peace Hero!

The Ushahidi Engine is being used to run non-disaster related site called Peace Heroes, which hopes to highlight ordinary Kenyans who did extraordinary things to promote peace during and after the post-election crisis earlier this year. Emer Beamer and her team at Butterfly Works put together this project in conjunction with Nairobits and Media Focus on Africa. Ushahidi thanks Emer for giving this Alpha version a test run.


Ushahidi is delighted to see the platform being used for this project, and would encourage Kenyans to support the project, by nominating peace heroes on the website. If you encounter any problems with the submission link, kindly fill out a bug report for us on

CrisisMappers Meeting

CrisisMappers Meeting

Today saw organizations and individuals from the mapping and crisis space descend upon Orlando for a meeting. The CrisisMappers group is focused on the use of mapping in crisis situations. It came about as those of us involved in some of the newer applications in this area realized that we needed to keep our communications open. It’s about keeping us as people talking, but also ensuring that our applications can share data.

Andrew Turner started us off with a “state of the map” talk, discussing tools, resources and trends in the neogeography area. Patrick Meier then started going through how mapping is currently being used in humanitarian and disaster recovery situations currently, and what the opportunities are.

Most of the day was spent running through everyone’s applications. Whether it was the Development Seed team taking us through their amazingly well designed sites, InSTEDD talking about Mesh4x and SMS GeoChat, or hearing about Emergencity, it was a great time to see what others are doing as they use location-based data for emergency situations.

Conversations touched on:

  • Open data vs helping Google/Yahoo/MS get more data
  • Mobile Crisis Mapping (p2p – without towers) messaging connectivity
  • Beyond just mapping… What do you do with providing community space (social space) and collaboration space (wiki)?
  • When is it appropriate to build web-focused vs client-focused tool
  • Offline interaction with our tools (mobile and web)
  • More requirements – how do we better engage the non-techs in the humanitarian space to gather requirements for use in these applications?
  • Interactive design – make maps understandable for end users (cartographic norms/rules)

It was a good first time meeting for many of us who had never met in person before. I, personally, am looking forward to the added interaction that this meeting will catalyze.

Finally, we’re all extremely grateful to MindComet (one of Florida’s top web agencies) for allowing us to use their amazing facility. It was sort of like sitting in the cockpit of a Star Wars ship – perfect for a bunch of visual mapping organizations.

Ushahidi’s Volunteers Rock!

As the Alpha version of Ushahidi was being launched, Ushahidi had some great volunteers working behind the scenes adding content to the new mashup.


Wambui Wamae – Kamiru, blogs at Kati Ya Wanawake about Women, Action and Change.


Dipesh Pabari blogs at Sukuma Kenya and he is one of the organizers of the Samosa Festival in Nairobi.

Wambui and Dipesh helped Ushahidi by entering dozens of reports that were originally blogged by Dipesh Pabari on the Sukuma Kenya Blog. The entries are now part of the mapping, such that when you click on ‘Kisumu’ you can read about the peace efforts of the Ladies in Action and other reports from the crisis period in early January.

I would like to thank Wambui and Dipesh for adding to the archive of reports on Ushahidi, you totally rock! Thank you for supporting Ushahidi and for all your assistance.

We realize that there were many Kenyans engaged in peace efforts, wrote about the crisis, or got specific information about what happened in Kenya. We would love for you to submit the information you may received into the new Ushahidi engine, kindly include links to the source of your report. The goal is to create an archive that contextualizes the crisis as much as possible, and tags the reports by city or area.
Just use this link to submit the information.

If you would like to help us out with getting incident reports that are part of long pdf documents into the Ushahidi engine, please have a look at the list of reports on our wiki, feel free to download a report and enter the incidents reported into the Ushahidi engine, please include the page number as part of the description and it will be reviewed by an administrator.
Do enter your name and email address in the optional field, we would love to contact you and thank you personally.

Please do continue to spread the word about the DRC deployment,, and the mobile number to send SMS reports to is +243992592111. Thank you.